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Police discover probable crimes involving cooperative loans

In addition to cases involving dubious loan write-offs, police have found several cases in which possible criminal offenses may have been committed in the awarding of loans by the now-defunct cooperative bank, MPs heard on Thursday.

Demetris Demetriou, deputy police chief, provided an update on the investigations into the Cyprus Co-operative Bank (CCB), partly based on the conclusions of an investigating panel.

That panel, which was created in late 2018, looked into why the Co-op needed €1.7 billion in state help for its recapitalization in 2014 and how the lender's non-performing debts had grown to €7.5 billion. It also looked into the management of the lender and the choices made that led to its demise and eventual sale to Hellenic Bank.

Police, according to Demetriou, are currently investigating the CCB's issuing of loans to two groups of businesses because they raise "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity. Investigations into the bank's write-off of loans to 16 groupings of companies are also proceeding.

The total sum of the disputed loans is around €63 million.

According to Demetriou, three former cooperative banks—Strovolos, Ayia Napa, and Ayia Fyla—have been the subject of four criminal cases that have been brought to date.

The trials were tried, and all of the defendants were found not guilty.

The Strovolos co-op court ruling has been challenged by the attorney general's office.

A fresh case involving the co-op in Erimi has been developed in the interim. December 12 is the day of the district court's initial hearing.

The agreement made between the co-op and asset management firm Altamira was a key focus of the police inquiry. Altamira had been selected to manage bad debts totaling about €7.5 billion.

The business allegedly secured a lucrative arrangement that included a fixed annual administrative charge of €20.4 million, a 4% commission on real estate sales, and additional commissions.

Varnavas Kourounas, formerly the cooperative's head of division responsible for overseeing non-performing loans, was later hired by Altamira, accepting the position prior to the bad debt agreement being signed, it was revealed in an unexpected turn of events.

The deputy police chief stated that officers had questioned one person and taken a deposition from another person in relation to the Altamira thread.

Demetriou informed the MPs that "no evidence came up to substantiate the commission of any criminal offence."

Georgios Aresti, the leader of the investigation commission, also testified before the legislature.

Aresti claimed that the hiring of Altamira marked a turning point in the cooperative's history.



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